Part four of five parts; click here to read part three.

58. Gerald and Gwen Austin, Good Neighbors
"Since 1964," says Pastor Gerald Austin, "over 105 different agencies have formed to address the problems of poor in this country. But after 30 years, the problems have not gotten better, but worse."

He, along with his wife of 20 years, Gwen, in 1986 started the Center for Urban Missions, a nonprofit corporation "founded on the hope of bringing the power of God" to inner-city Birmingham, Alabama. Seven years ago, the Austins began the New City Church, a nondenominational, multi-racial, and inner-city congregation that meets in the building that houses the administrative offices of the center. Through the church and the center (with the help of employees and volunteers), Gerald and Gwen are targeting, and reaching, Metropolitan Gardens (MG), Birmingham's largest housing project (with more than 3,000 residents), which also happens to be in the poorest zip code in the nation. "We want to demonstrate that by the power of God, families can be restored, get off welfare, that communities can learn to work together, and that the church can be a part of the solution for the inner city."

Kenny, an MG resident, used to deal drugs and live with his girlfriend, Angie (and their four children), on welfare. Through the ministry of the New City Church, both Kenny and Angie accepted Christ. Today, he works as a bench technician with RAMP (Reaching and Motivating People), a job-creation and -training program cosponsored by the center and Royal Cup Coffee, a Birmingham corporation. Kenny was recently promoted to shop foreman. Kenny and Angie were married at the New City Church—the first couple in both families to be married. With the help of the center, Kenny and Angie will soon be moving out of public housing and into their own home.

"The participation of a diverse pool of volunteers is vital," says Austin. "It gives individuals an opportunity— whether they are white American, African American, Asian, or Hispanic —to see the person they are helping not as a problem to be solved but as a neighbor to be helped."

MG resident Ora could not read or write. A volunteer taught her to read, and soon she and her sons became actively involved at the church. Ora soon began to participate at her sons' school and eventually was asked to become president of the PTA. Ora took employment at the center, and the family moved out of public housing. Her oldest son recently completed two years of college, got married, and went to work for the RAMP program.

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"When we started in that community," the Austins recall, "there were knifings and shootings almost every other week. We have reduced the crime rate some 42 percent in this one community."

59. Jeff Johnson, "Everyman" Hero
In Jeff Johnson's church office is a small, grainy photo taken at the California Great America amusement park. Riding in front of a plunging roller coaster is a teenager with both hands thrust high in the air; behind him is another teenager, his eyes clenched shut in terror. In the rear sits Jeff Johnson, checking his watch. The picture is captioned, "Portrait of a Burned-Out Youth Worker."

The photo was a gag, though Johnson admits, "That's how I feel about those rides." But he is not a burned-out youth worker, neither is he bored by the prospect of more trips to Great America, white-water rafting, Manteca Waterslides, Crushers (minor league) baseball, Jars of Clay concerts, the Eel River, or the beach. For that matter, he's not bored with the trips to Mexico to build houses for the poor, to convalescent homes to visit and sing, or to freeway overpasses for graffiti abatement.

"A lot of what we do is a means to an end," Johnson says, "and I have not lost sight of the end. It is not hard for me to say that Great America is really important because I've heard someone say that he became a Christian while waiting in line for 'Top Gun.' We're going to keep doing Great America until the cows come home, or Christ returns. You can have all the truth in the world, but if it's not packaged for them, they won't connect."

Johnson leads a thriving youth ministry at First Presbyterian Church in Santa Rosa, California, where older members dread the day he "moves on"—they think he's irreplaceable. Johnson has a different perspective. "I feel like Everyman, to be honest. I go to conferences and meet other youth pastors, and I find we're doing a lot of the same stuff."

Johnson is well versed on the latest gee-whiz developments in youth ministry, but, he says, "The heart of youth ministry is the same as ever: Is someone going to invest their life in these kids?"

When Johnson was 14, he wrote his church's volunteer youth leader, asking to meet with him weekly so he could grow in his faith. (Years later Johnson learned that his letter had been decisive in that leader's decision to become a pastor.) "The influence of my youth pastors was profound. They were my heroes."

"The average age of conversion is 16," Johnson notes. "If the Holy Spirit blows where it wills, why does it blow so much through adolescence?"

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After graduating from Stanford University with a degree in economics, he took a two-year youth internship with Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, then worked at Union Bank, primarily to test his call to youth ministry. Three years in banking helped confirm it. He took his master of divinity degree at Fuller Seminary, where he won the annual prize for preaching. The reward was a year of study in Cambridge, England. From there he received his first church call, to Santa Rosa.

Now, seven years later, Johnson is often asked when he'll make the switch to adult ministry. But he isn't so sure he wants to make the change. "When I see kids latch on to their faith for themselves, that's an incredible high point."

Take Russ Haynes, a tall, red-haired college student who worked as a summer youth intern. "The summer after my seventh grade, this guy shows up at my house wanting to build some magazine racks," Haynes remembers. "I might have seen him once at church before then. I wasn't sure if I should let him into my house." A day with Jeff Johnson building magazine racks led to active involvement in junior high, high school, and college groups, in Bible studies, service opportunities, and "fun." "That's been the story, spending time with him. He made me feel important, because this big old guy has time for me."

Another former youth-group member, Cory Myers, who now serves as program coordinator at a local church camp, recalls: "When I was in high school, Jeff could easily have written me off because I was going through a punk phase." Instead, he remembers Johnson as an incredibly encouraging force, confronting him with the need for a personal relationship with Christ.

"Whether I can survive youth ministry is the question," Johnson says. "I've been doing this for 15 years. Just physically, it's difficult. I went snowboarding with a group of kids last winter and I still haven't fully recovered. My ankle, my knee are still hurting. And to be an effective youth minister, I have to be meeting kids at their level all the time.

"I need agility to keep up with these kids. Plus the hours. Every week I'm up with the college group after midnight, because that's when they're available and awake."

It's not work we associate with heroism—though what work is harder than standing in line at Great America? Jeff Johnson may be Everyman, but don't try telling that to the kids at First Presbyterian.
60. Inspired by the healing ministry of Christ, Ken Grosch founded Global Health Ministries to support Lutheran medical missions worldwide. From their base in Minneapolis, ghm volunteers harvest a variety of medical items such as needles, rubber gloves, catheters, thermometers, stethoscopes, x-ray equipment, bedpans, wheelchairs, and slightly outdated and excess medical supplies from American medical facilities. Teams of Evangelical Lutheran Church members around the U.S. gather and assemble midwife kits, which ghm ships abroad to help ensure the safe delivery of newborns in Third World countries.

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61.Carolyn Eyerman of Little Silver, New Jersey, founded connect, a church-based program that provides Christmas gifts for hundreds of needy families. This has grown into love, inc., a ministry of World Vision that is a clearing-house for churches to help with meeting real needs of hurting people.

62. For "Undie Sunday," pioneered by Judy Hodge at Mount Pisgah United Methodist Church in Alpharetta, Georgia, parishioners place new underwear into shopping carts positioned around the church. Hundreds of T-shirts, socks, and other items are donated to an Atlanta homeless shelter.

63. A year ago, Trans World Radio, in cooperation with Words of Hope in Grand Rapids, Michigan, began broadcasting Christian programs in Balkan Romani, the major language of Europe's 10 million Gypsies. One result: Three churches with about 20 people each were started by Gypsy pastors in Bulgaria.

64.Choice Books of Harrisonburg, Virginia, places Christian books in more than 4,000 secular outlets in Canada and the U.S., including such stores as Wal-Mart, Safeway, Kroger, and Acme.

65. Children regularly visit the Wesleyan Retirement Community of Denton, Maryland, since it shares a campus with the Wesleyan Christian School. The children give holiday programs for their elderly neighbors, adopt "grandparents," and sometimes receive instruction from the seniors in class.

66.FCA Golf Ministry of Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, sold out nine of its ten summer junior golf camps this year. The 540 teens who participate are challenged to improve both their golf skills and their spiritual health.

67.Steer Inc. of Bismarck, North Dakota, "steers" money to missions by finding donors to invest $700 amounts in livestock and arranging for farmers and ranchers to donate feed and care for the livestock until they are sold at market. The profits—which last year totaled $445,000—are distributed among 80 evangelical missions organizations.

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68. Using a video format, Deaf Missions of Corona, California, is translating the Bible into American Sign Language. The translation, which is being done by deaf people, will run 200 hours and is 25 percent complete.

69. More than 2,500 believers have committed themselves to pray for individuals in the U.S. armed forces through Christian Military Fellowship's monthly newsletter and E-mail listings. The ministry, based in Englewood, Colorado, also links military personnel with other Christians in 44 states and 62 countries around the world.

70.Focus on the Family's "Life on the Edge" tour brings together up to 4,000 parents and their teenage children for intensive weekend sessions that help them talk about everything from premarital sex and drugs to career and dating choices. The tour has been to four cities and will visit twelve more through 1999.

71. In June, more than 400 Chinese students studying in American universities attended a weeklong conference put on by International Students in San Diego. The sessions, in Mandarin, addressed scientific and philosophical issues from a Christian world-view. Forty-three students became Christians.

72. This September, Kingdomworks stationed 30 young adults in six inner-city houses in Philadelphia and Oakland, California. The volunteers have committed themselves to working in these neighborhoods and with local churches during their "Mission Year" of outreach.

73. Last year 50 boys at Rawhide Boys Ranch in New London, Wisconsin, fixed up 550 old cars and boats. The boys, who have delinquency records, study and live for one year in Christian homes. Eighty percent never return to the court system.

74. In Haiti, a husband-and-wife team with Water for Life from Kalona, Iowa, last year drilled 70 wells in villages without sanitary water supplies.

75. In March 1996, Wycliffe Bible Translators distributed 24 tons of Bibles to the Ngbaka people in the town of Gemena in northwest Zaire.

76. By ringing bells at stores and shopping malls around the country last Christmas season, Salvation Army volunteers collected $18,238,997 for the needy.

77. Having grown up in poverty, brothers Dave, Hal, and Steve Donaldson founded ChurchCare America, based in Springfield, Missouri. Working with the 700 Club 's Operation Blessing, ChurchCare sends "The Convoy of Hope"—an 18-wheeler and other vehicles—into inner cities. There they provide needy families with two bags of groceries each, medical screenings, refreshments, gospel presentations by local pastors, and offer children's pony rides, inflatable "jumping gyms," clowns, and balloons. Dave Donaldson says the transdenominational effort has seen more than 30,000 professions of faith, distributed hundreds of thousands of bags of groceries, touched more than a million lives, and plans to visit 52 cities in 1998.

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78.Buddy Young, Baptist campus minister at West Texas A&M University, takes Christian college students to South Padre Island, Texas, for spring break where they minister and witness to hundreds of their peers. Vacationing students are invited to accept free van rides, eat a three-pancake breakfast, participate in beach games, and visit coffee houses. Now known as "Breakout: BeachReach and Beyond," Young's ministry design is being used by other Southern Baptist organizations in resort areas in Florida, Louisiana, Arizona, and Colorado.

79. Using funds contributed by hundreds of individuals and dozens of churches, Roy Goble'sThe Eden Conservancy, a Christian environmental program based in Santa Fe, California, buys acres of tropical rain forests to protect them from development and destruction. The conservancy recently purchased more than 3,000 acres in Belize, where the land has been deeded to the Belize Audubon Society. Goble says scientific research and "eco-tourism" will be permitted on preserved properties.

80.Raul Torres, pastor of Primera Iglesia Bautista Hispai> (ABC/USA) in Elgin, Illinois, developed what he calls the Table Ministry. Torres noticed how many important conversations—particularly ones dealing with problem solving and reconciliation—take place around tables. Now he takes his tables to schools, where he mediates problems between teens and school administrators; homes, where he counsels with parents and teens; courtrooms, where he advocates for teens seeking a second chance; and jails, visiting some imprisoned teens. Torres is also chaplain for the Elgin Police Department.

81.Stan Wiggam, dean of admissions at Asbury College, Wilmore, Kentucky, founded the school's Tumbling Team, which witnesses for Christ through gymnastics. The team has performed in schools, churches, malls, a maximum security prison, the Pentagon, and at half time during a national basketball tournament. If allowed, they include a gospel presentation, but the athletes can always share the gospel during one-on-one visits with audience members after the show.

82. Some people feel uncomfortable in the "Big Church," so Pastor Ron King started the Pizza Church as an offshoot of First Baptist Church of Mount Holly, New Jersey (ABC/USA). The group of 40 to 50 meets for worship and Bible study in a pizzeria. For some it is a bridge to the larger congregation, but for others it's a church where they feel at home.

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83. Bud Ogle, Suburban Transplant
While training a group of volunteers to build housing for the poor, Bud Ogle nearly severed his hand with a power saw. His surgeon took the unusual precaution of ordering a lung x-ray, which revealed a malignant tumor. The tumor was removed just in time, and Bud then faced the prospect of hand surgery and a long, grueling recovery.

That whipsaw sequence provides a symbol for Bud's urban ministry. "I wondered what God could possibly have in mind with the accident. Yet, as it turned out, the accident saved my life, a lesson I tried to keep in mind as I kept squeezing a tennis ball to regain strength. Both my salvation and recovery involved excruciating pain."

For volunteers who work with him in one of Chicago's poorest neighborhoods, Bud guarantees one spiritual lesson: You will learn how to fail. Nothing goes according to plan. The city shuts down a homeless shelter on technicalities, a promising leader slips back into heroin addiction, arsonists destroy a newly rehabbed building, car batteries disappear, church windows are broken, gangs shoot two kids outside ministry headquarters. Yet somehow, in the midst of the pain and chaos, the gospel takes root.

"Look at David," Bud says. "He made bad decisions, messed up his family, and committed terrible sins. Though he failed again and again, he never let failure paralyze him. Each time he got back up, accepted forgiveness, and started over. That's what happens in this neighborhood—failure becomes a way to learn God's grace. I see alcoholics and addicts fall off the wagon four, five, six times. Some never climb back up. But others gradually receive God's grace in the midst of failure. In my experience, recovery and transformation depend primarily on whether a person believes he or she is 'forgivable.' Discovering that God forgives us no matter how badly we fail creates the space to be healed."

The son of a prosperous lawyer, who was also lieutenant governor of Minnesota, Bud earned a B.D. from Yale Divinity School and also a Ph.D. in history. He took a position as a Presbyterian campus minister at Northwestern University, an elite school just north of Chicago. While there, he and a small band began to pray about what they could learn from the poor. They did volunteer work in a nearby pocket of poverty, and eventually Bud and his wife and a few others moved into the community.

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Good News Partners, the organization that developed, offers a step-by-step system of meeting needs. A storefront church runs a soup kitchen that feeds up to 200 people a day. A shelter welcomes the homeless, employing women in a daycare center that simultaneously provides a nurturing environment for their children. Once a family gets on their feet, they can move into the Jonquil Hotel, a 60-unit building with 10 x 14-foot rooms that house entire families. If they dry out or get off drugs and find a job (Good News employs some of the men in construction crews), the family can then apply for one of 55 co-op units rehabbed by the construction crews.

Whereas visitors come away impressed by the progress, Bud, a visionary, sees all that remains to be done. "Newspapers crow about the booming economy, but in this neighborhood, where so many live on welfare, I sense mainly fear about what will happen when the checks stop. One Lenten season I fasted and prayed in an abandoned building, and God gave me a vision for Chicago as a pioneer settlement in God's kingdom. I believe God wants this city, known for its gangster past, to become known as a Pentecost place where no one has unmet needs. I shared my vision with a few others who shook their heads and laughed. 'Get real, Bud. It's not going to happen.'

"Still, suburbanites living in their gated communities, protected by alarm systems and worried about their kids and drugs, must realize that an unjust society affects us all. It is an offense to God and should be an offense to everyone who believes the gospel is truly good news for the poor. Many suburban churches support our work, and I ask them not merely to send money, but to send settlers who will move into the neighborhood while remaining in their suburban churches. We need bridges between affluent Evanston and the underprivileged neighborhood I live in. I have found that even when we serve God sacrificially, it proves liberating, not onerous."

At the end of last year's Lenten season, Bud helped prepare an Easter sunrise service on the shore of Lake Michigan, five blocks from his home. Around 4 a.m. he began carrying supplies to the lakefront, including three crosses to erect on the beach. It was pitch-dark, and a man startled him by sneaking up beside him to ask what kind of drugs he wanted. "It was like a kick in the groin," Bud says, "on Easter Sunday, the day of such promise, to be confronted again with the relentless power of evil."

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This year he conducted a similar service, but with a different spirit. On one block he saw George, a recovering addict who had been standing vigil for two weeks—sometimes 22 hours a day—in honor of the two boys murdered just outside ministry headquarters. The gang shooting happened in broad daylight, across from a playground, and schoolchildren walked home past pools of blood and bits of brain splattered on the sidewalk. "We can't let those boys go unremembered," George had told Bud. "They were precious children of God. I'll stand here around the clock, 'til Easter, in their memory."

A block farther on, Bud saw a cluster of women standing on a street corner. Normally only prostitutes and pushers work the streets that time of night, yet these did not appear to be prostitutes. Were women now working the streets as drug pushers? He got closer and recognized two of them, regular attenders at the Good News Community Church. "Happy Easter," said Bud. "What's up?"

The women told him, "We're reclaiming this street corner for God. We're taking it back from the drug dealers." Spontaneously, they too had decided to stand vigil against the forces of evil in the neighborhood.

A few hours later, during the Easter sunrise service, Bud dispensed with the homily and instead offered a forum for people to tell their stories. Seven spoke in all, three of them newly recovering addicts. "I was good as dead," said one. "Now, with Jesus' help and the help of all of you, I feel I'm coming back to life."

Easter took on a new meaning for Bud after his many hours of fasting and praying. Out of the pain, hope; in the midst of the darkness, a bright light. During the bilingual service, Bud called out, first in English and then in Spanish, "He is risen!" The answer came back as a shout: "¡Ha resucitado! He is risen indeed!"

Part four of five parts; click here to read part five.

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